Greg Abbott is currently one of the most outspoken public officials regarding the border crisis. As the governor of Texas, one of the crisis points regarding the border, it’s understandable that he would have strong feelings regarding illegal immigration and how it affects his state. However, many believe that Abbott is taking the issue too far, and overstepping the bounds of his authority as a state official.

Blaming the Biden Administration

Abbott has claimed that the inaction of the federal government regarding illegal immigration is what has caused the numbers of immigrants crossing the border to surge in recent years. Illegal immigration numbers hit a record high during the 2023 fiscal year, with December seeing the highest daily border crossings in recent history.

Source: Wikimedia/MavsFan28

Abbott has been outspoken and loud in his efforts to combat this problem. He instituted Operation Lone Star in March of 2021, an effort that was meant to build more border wall in Texas as well as leverage additional National Guard soldiers to deter migrants from entering the country unlawfully.

Largely Unsuccessful Efforts

The efforts have, in large part, seemed to be unsuccessful. Total border crossings exceeded 988,000 between October and December of 2023, following a record 2.4 million encounters at the United States and Mexico border during the fiscal year of 2023.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

This number is up from approximately 1.7 million, which was the number of migrant crossings that was recorded in 2021. Abbott has been trying to take his own action regarding the border since Biden took office, looking for ways he can address the problem without federal intervention. 

Using State Laws, Rather than Federal

One of the ways he has been trying to address the issue is by enforcing Texas state immigration laws, rather than federal immigration laws that fall under the responsibility of the administration. Some of his actions include arrests and deportations under legislation known as SB 4, which was approved last year by the Senate.

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

These actions have been challenged by the Biden administration as overstepping state authority, and further, have been deeply unpopular with many constituents. Many Texans believe that Abbott’s policies regarding the border are both cruel and unnecessary, and don’t provide the necessary grace required when dealing with such a delicate matter. 

Religious Figures Criticizing Abbott

These criticisms extend to those of a religious background, as well. Bishop Mark Seitz, of the Diocese of El Paso, has heavily criticized Abbott for what he says are “transparently political” efforts, which are part of a “broad, brutal, historical project in Texas to criminalize and police people who migrate.”

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

“You have seen the Humvees and the concertina wire and the national guardsmen on the television,” he said. “People of faith have a duty to resist these racist projects,” he finished. 

About Seitz

Seitz is the chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration, which sets policies and direction for the church’s work in areas including advocacy, education, refugee resettlement, and providing specialized services to vulnerable populations.

Source: El Paso Diocese

The Catholic Church has long been involved in various types of advocacy work, and the immigration crisis is exactly the type of issue that benefits greatly from the involvement of such an organization. The Church has both the money, power, and influence to affect significant change, and individuals like Seitz are aware of that. 

The Catholic Church Getting Involved

The Diocese of El Paso was established in 1914, and covers approximately 26,700 square miles. This includes nine Texas counties, 56 parishes, 18 missions, and a Catholic population of nearly 700,000.

Source: Wikimedia/Office of U.S. Vice President

These various jurisdictions have all had a hand in various charitable efforts regarding the immigration crisis. The Catholic church has been heavily involved in different missions to feed and clothe those who have come across the border with little in the way of money or resources, and there are safe houses that have been built and run by the Catholic church to help ease the suffering of some of these individuals.

Other Bad News for Abbott

The Church is not the only avenue of bad news for Abbott, though. This past week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Texas’ request to allow SB 4 to legally go into effect in the state while the court considers its legality.

Source: Wikimedia/David Martin Davies

This move is being praised by civil rights groups as a victory, in what is quickly becoming the most contentious front of the border crisis, particularly in the courts. 

Blocking the Execution of SB 4

The ruling, written by Chief Judge Priscilla Richamn, read, “For nearly 150 years, the Supreme Court has held that the power to control immigration – the entry, admission, and removal of noncitizens – is exclusively a federal power.”

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

This ruling allows the lower-court decision to remain in place. This prevents Abbott from using SB 4 as a justification for exercising broad state power regarding the border, at least until the Fifth Circuit hears arguments regarding the injunction in April.

Praise from Activists

Civil rights activists and immigration activists have praised the decision. “The court did the right thing in preventing the implementation of SB 4,” said El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal.

Source: Wikimedia/J Dimas

“We will continue seeking a court decision permanently enjoining this law that has already caused so much fear and divisiveness in our community.”

Butting Heads with Texas

This is not the first time the Seitz has butted heads with the authorities of Texas, either. In the past, he reportedly rebuked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for his office’s efforts to defund Annunciation House.

Source: Wikimedia/Brian Wancho

Annunciation House is a decades-old Catholic migrant shelter in El Paso, which was alleged by the AG to have facilitated illegal entry to the United States, harbored illegal immigrants, and engaged in human smuggling and operating a stash house. 

Texas’ Efforts Escalating

This month, a district court judge in Texas said that Paxton’s efforts were presented “without regard to due process or fair play.”

Source: Wikimedia/Jim Evans

“The attack on Annunciation House represents an escalation in Texas’ efforts in recent years to militarize the border and to enact legislation criminalizing migration and people who migrate,” Seitz said in a statement. 

A Statement from Seitz

The bishop went further, telling Crux, an online newspaper that focuses on news related to the Catholic Church, that the hypothetical situation of Texas officials deporting migrants without properly allowing for the asylum process to play out “saddens” him.

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

“I’m very disappointed by the narrative that is being promoted to this day, that people who are fleeing our border are a threat to us in the first place. It’s just a tremendous misunderstanding of what’s happening,” Seitz said. 

A Complicated Ethical and Legal Dilemma

The border crisis is a complicated issue, with opinions on all sides that are valid. It’s true that migrants deserve compassion and understanding for the circumstances that they might be escaping, just as it’s true that the United States has a duty to its citizens to manage the border in a way that is both humane, ethical, and legal.

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Abbott may be overstepping his boundaries as a state leader regarding the crisis, but that’s for the courts to decide. In the meantime, it’s the obligation of both the federal government and American citizens to consider the border crisis carefully, and to act appropriately when issues needing attention arise.